Shropshire firefighters saving lives in Romania

The lives of 18 Romanian mothers and children were saved by smoke alarms fitted as part of a Shropshire led campaign to improve fire safety in rural parts of Transylvania, it has been revealed.

Steve Worrall, Carole Walker, Canon Johnathan Mitchell and Malcolm Price

A major fire broke out in a care home on April 27, caused by a cigarette, but residents managed to escape after the alarm was raised.

The home’s manager later praised UK’s Operation Sabre for installing smoke alarms as part of a campaign in rural areas of Romania.

It comes as crews set off from the Quarry park in Shrewsbury yesterday, taking three fire engines to Transylvania

“The smoke alarms saved 18 residents from what could have been fatal consequences,” said Steve Worrall, a retired assistant chief fire officer with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, who began the fire prevention campaign in Romania several years ago.

Last year the Romanian Government invited six members of Operation Sabre to carry out a one week audit of one of Transylvania’s professional fire services – the first time an international team has been allowed to do so.

The audit, based on methods to assess UK fire services, proved to be a success in identifying both areas of good practice and those for potential improvement.

A key recommendation set out in the team’s findings was the need to promote the use of smoke alarms – a recommendation reinforced by the recent fire. The audit’s results are being shared throughout Romania’s fire services.

One of the Operation Sabre’s priorities is to promote the benefits of smoke alarms, which have been used to save lives in the UK for many years, said Steve, who set off from Shrewsbury with another team of volunteers on the 12th humanitarian aid mission to Transylvania.

The team of 11, many either serving or retired staff from Shropshire and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Services, will deliver three more fully equipped fire engines to some of the most remote parts of Romania.

They are joined on the five day,1,800 mile road trek across nine countries, by firefighter colleagues from Austria and Germany, who have supported the fire prevention campaign for many years.

More than 30 “retired” UK fire engines, thousands of firefighter uniforms and fire kit have been delivered, including a staggering 20 tonnes of aid, over the past few years. Volunteers have also supported three orphanages and “adopted” an old people’s home, where conditions had been “grim” until the charity intervened.

“The old people’s home was a former prison and it has been a major challenge for the team,” said Steve, who is the charity’s president.

“When we first visited the home several years ago we found conditions to be extremely poor for the 50 residents. We embarked on a major redecorating programme and through the generosity of Shropshire and Merseyside people and groups, provided the residents with fresh bedding and clothing but more importantly a pleasant environment to live.”

The team also arranged summer barbecues and Christmas parties for elderly and orphans alike.

The volunteers are due home on May 25.